Bourbon Enthusiasts Flock to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®

Bourbon has become increasingly popular, leading to more tourists visiting Kentucky, which explains why the Kentucky bourbon trail draws thousands of curious visitors yearly. Taking tours around the distilleries, tasting lots of whiskey, and learning about bourbon’s history is an ideal way to spend some time off. In this post, we will offer you an ultimate guide to having a wholesome experience on the Kentucky bourbon trail, including places to visit and even things you can do away from the trail.

What is Bourbon?

Bourbon, also called American whiskey, is an alcoholic drink distilled from corn. Production of this whiskey began in the early 1700s in the bluegrass state (another name for Kentucky). Although bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S., most come from Kentucky. The state produces 95% of the globe’s bourbon.

What’s the Kentucky bourbon trail?

The Kentucky bourbon trail consists of bourbon distilleries found in Kentucky. The path started in 1999 to attract tourists to the bluegrass state. By visiting the trail, you will closely examine the bourbon distillation process, learn the art of whiskey tasting, and ask the manufacturers any questions. Currently, the Kentucky bourbon trail has eighteen distilleries, all members of the state’s Distillers Association. There are other distilleries you can check out that aren’t on the Kentucky bourbon trail, such as the infamous Buffalo Trace.

Distilleries on the Kentucky bourbon trail 

  • Evan Williams
  • Heaven Hill
  • Bulleit Distilling Company
  • Angels Envy
  • Rabbit Hole
  • Lux Row
  • Wilderness Trail Distillery
  • Bardstown Bourbon 
  • Old Forester
  • Michters Distillery
  • Woodford Reserve
  • Four Roses Bourbon
  • Wild Turkey Bourbon
  • Green River, previously called O.Z. Tyler
  • Town Branch
  • Stitzel-Weller Distillery
  • Makers Mark

How much time will you need?

You’ll require at least five days to visit all the eighteen distilleries, but having an ideal experience for six or seven days would be perfect. The tours take one and a half hours (some can take longer, depending on the distillery). Assuming you are proactive, you can handle up to four daily tours.

Kindly note that you don’t have to visit all the distilleries; numerous places offer bourbon tastings without the tour. While tasting, you will also learn how the distillery began and what makes it unique. Many of the bourbon manufacturers on the trail have fascinating stories. Additionally, all the distilleries have gift shops selling their bourbon and other souvenirs.

We recommend combining tours with whiskey tastings for an excellent Kentucky bourbon trail experience.

Planning your itinerary 

All the bourbon distilleries on the trail are located in four major areas. These include; six in Louisville (but if you count Jim Bean, they are seven), five distilleries in Lexington, and five around and inside Bardstown, Owensboro, and Danville have one.

If you have enough time, you can aim to spend a day in each area; thus, you can complete three or four tours plus tastings.

Here is a sample schedule you can follow:

Day one- visit four distilleries around Lexington.

Woodford reserve, Town Branch, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses are here. Start your day early by being at the first company around 9 am to see them all. While in the area, you can visit Buffalo Trace and have lunch in one of Lexington’s exquisite restaurants.

Day two- visit distilleries in southern Louisville

Bourbon producers in this area include; Lux Row, Makers Mark, Heaven Hill, Bardstown Bourbon, and Jim Beam. You can also have lunch at the famous Old Talbot Tavern in Bardstown, where locals say James Jesse’s ghost haunts it. In southern Louisville, you will also find the Kentucky Cooperage, where barrels used in bourbon aging are made.

Day three- walk around Louisville.

Louisville has Angels Envy, Old Forester, Stitzel -Weller, Rabbit Hole, and Michter’s. If you have more time to spare, you can head out to Danville and check out Wilderness Trail.

What is it like to take a tour?

During a tour that usually takes an hour or more, your guide will walk you through the factory, explaining the distillery’s history and processes. Guides often talk about yeast trains the company uses and their mash bill. After a few tours, you will quickly learn that the yeast strains a distillery uses plays a critical role in the final product. Therefore, some distilleries have used specific yeast strains for decades. Tours typically end with a bourbon tasting. Most distilleries allow you to sample some of their bourbons, and you can even buy some on your way out.

Self-drive or take a tour?

While visiting the Kentucky bourbon trail: join a tour or self-drive. Both methods have their advantages. For instance, if you decide to self-drive, you can rent a car cheaply and make your schedule; this includes choosing which distilleries to visit and even checking out other places along the road. On the other hand, you can let someone else handle all the planning for you by joining a tour.

FAQ About the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

What’s the best time to visit the Kentucky bourbon trail?

Distilleries on this trail are open throughout the year. However, many guides recommend visiting in spring as the weather is conducive, and you will see the entire production process.

Do you need reservations?

If you plan to visit the Kentucky bourbon trail from July to early November, you must make reservations, as most tours sell out.

Is it free to visit a distillery?

All the Kentucky bourbon producers charge a small fee for the tours and tastings. The price ranges from $5 to $20 a person, depending on the company and the kind of tour you’re taking.

Are children allowed?

You can take children on the tours; however, they won’t participate in the whiskey tasting. 

Where can I stay?

In Kentucky, you can stay at plenty of luxury, upscale, and midrange hotels. We recommend booking a hotel in Louisville as you will be at a central location, making it easier to go to Lexington, Owensboro, and even Lexington.

What are the best distillery tours on the Kentucky bourbon trail?

Makers Mark, Lux Row, and Four Roses bourbon usually have the most visitors since they offer the best distillery tours.

Other things to do in Kentucky 

Visit the Mammoth Cave National Park, and the Horse Park, try the numerous restaurants, and check out Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.

Conclusion About the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Hopefully, you understand why bourbon lovers flock to the Kentucky bourbon trail year after year. If you need more information about other whiskey trails, please get in touch with us.

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